Saturday, June 10, 2006

chronicles of loneliness

I was beginning to think that my friends had given up on me. Here I was, for the umpteenth Friday night in a row, with nothing to do. It's okay, I didn't really have time to do anything anyway. I needed to get to sleep so that I could wake up early and study this morning. It just would be nice... if I felt like maybe someone did want to spend time with me. Maybe if someone said, "I know you're busy, but let's just get dinner, we won't take long."

Then the phone call. "Hey, do you want to watch the Incredibles with us?" My roommate says, "Is that who I think it is? Oh yeah, I was thinking of asking if you wanted to join us; I guess the rest of them had the same idea." Someone wants to be with me! I feel like I haven't seen my roommate in weeks, and I know I haven't seen the rest of them in weeks. Oh, why not? I can postpone my bedtime a little bit.

So I go, tired, still feeling a little bit sorry for myself, but looking forward to spending some time with friends I haven't seen in a while. And as I look around and see that I'm the car's fifth wheel, and as I walk with the two hand-holding couples to my friend's apartment, and as I try to figure out where to sit so that I'm not in anyone's way while we watch the movie, my loneliness begins to shift. It's good to hear a human voice, to see the faces of those I love, but there is an open wound that has been getting a little too much salt recently. I am no longer alone, but somehow I feel more alone than before. I'm not handling this graciously; I just want to leave.

I excuse myself from the group and go home. After all, it is past my bedtime. As I walk, I call my sister. My sister, my Marianne, how good it is to hear her voice! And suddenly, I know what it is that I want: I want someone who loves me enough, not just to hang out with me on a Friday night when she happens to be free, but someone who will make time for me any Friday night that I need her; I want someone who I can trust with anything, with every part of my life and who wants to share hers with me.

My loneliness begins to shift again. With my sister, I have all of that. I have the best friend I could ever wish for... 1800 miles away. Why so far, my Marianne? Oh, I know I'm the one who left. And I question again - is it worth it? Can questions of the collective motions of protons and electrons possibly justify leaving my home, my family, those I love best? Could this really be what God has asked of me?

Night comes and morning follows, a cloud still hanging over me. I hear my other roommate. Why is she up so early? I should be getting up. The doorbell rings. Her boyfriend is over. It's 7 am, and the last thing I want to see is another couple that can't keep their hands off each other [This isn't a fair characterization, but such are my thoughts when I'm grumpy at 7 am on a Saturday]. Morning can wait; the covers are back over my head.

It's late. I've missed the morning Mass I was planning on, so I have to look for another. I am walking past Our Lady of Fatima shrine. It is closed, but outside are statues, trees, flowers and birds - those things I see so rarely in the middle of the city. The rain falls lightly, rhythmically, like my tears last night. There are so many different birds; I wish I knew their names! I love the raindrops on the leaves, the pine trees with a tiny pearl of water at the end of each needle.

As the Lord has done before, He points to the birds and the flowers to show me His steadfast love and care for His creation. Each tiny part of His creation is beautiful to me - how much more beautiful to Him who created them! Each subatomic particle that I study is precious to Him - how much more precious is each of us who is made in His image and likeness!

It is here, listening to the wind and the rain and the birds, that my loneliness begins to shift again. In the past day, it has shifted to every corner of my heart illuminating empty cavities whose existence I had tried to deny, but now it shifts outside, out away from my self-pity, out where it can soak up the rain, where it can be refreshed by the warm breeze, out to where it can do some good: to the foot of the cross. There at Calvary is the loneliest, the most exposed, and the holiest place on Earth, and it is there that my loneliness belongs.

Perhaps this loneliness is not going to go away any time soon, but perhaps it doesn't need to. "When your heart has fallen raise it gently, humbling yourself before God, acknowledging your fault, but not surprised at your fall. Infirmity is infirm, weakness weak, and frailty frail," said St. Francis de Sales. So I take these empty caverns in my heart and ask the Lord to fill them with Him. I take the little bit of strength I have left and trust that God can multiply it to do His will.
So the land of loneliness is the land of intense peace and a strange joy. But God does not yet allow loneliness to be eliminated from peace and joy. That will come after death... The loneliness of God is a creative loneliness... When you discuss loneliness and come to think about it, think about the loneliness of Christ, of God - the loneliness that God gave us to bring us to himself.
~Catherine Doherty


Stephen said...

Sounds difficult, I'm glad you found inspiration.

timmus said...

i love you my Elinor
i am sorry i didn't get to talk to you much last night.